NIAR to celebrate upgrades to facilities

11:57:18 AM CDT - Thursday, January 20, 2005

The WSU community and members of the public can check out the modernized crash dynamics lab and wind tunnel at the National Institute for Aviation Research when the upgraded facilities are formally rededicated at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 28, on the main floor of the NIAR building. Tours of the labs will immediately follow the ceremony.

The rededication ceremony had originally been scheduled for December.

Both facilities underwent multimillion-dollar upgrades that will allow NIAR researchers to expand their research. With its $6 million in upgrades, the wind tunnel can now handle higher air speeds and temperatures, while crash lab officials are shopping their new $3 million upgrades to the automotive industry.

The university's first wind tunnel was built in 1928 by aerospace engineering professor Alexander Petroff and three of his students, one of whom was Duane Wallace, who went on to become president of Cessna Aircraft Co. Two decades later, Professor Kenneth Razak built the current facility with funding by Cessna and Beech Aircraft. In 1951, the facility was dedicated in honor of Beech Aircraft founder Walter Beech, who had died in 1950.

The wind tunnel upgrades include a new six-component external balance that provides precise measurement of aerodynamic loads on test articles. Airspeeds in excess of 230 mph have been observed with test section temperature below 95 degrees.

Before the upgrades, the tunnel's speed was confined to approximately 150 mph winds and its temperature would frequently rise above 150 degrees. The tunnel could only be operated for approximately one hour before the air temperature would get too high for testing to continue. The constraints limited some testing for the tunnel's diverse clientele, which includes aviation and nonaviation-related businesses.

Like the wind tunnel, the Crash Dynamics Lab will also be able to expand its testing. The lab got its start because the FAA required certification of airplane seats in the late 1980s, and Boeing, Raytheon (formerly Beech Aircraft) and Cessna needed an independent facility to perform secure proprietary testing.

While it has established itself as a premier testing facility for the nation's aircraft and aircraft component manufacturers, the lab will now be able to do testing for the automotive industry. With its new horizontal crash system, the lab will be able to test automotive air bags, child safety seats and various other component testing. A new camera system, which can capture more than 10,000 frames per second, replaced a previous system that was limited to 100 frames per second. Six new crash dummies joined an existing family of seven.

Compiled by Amy Geiszler-Jones

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